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Industrial Internet Consortium

USA: Industry 4.0 the American Way

| Author: Stéphane Itasse

“There were many misunderstandings in the general discussion. But as we were at the material level, we could conduct a manual discussion“, says Prof. Siegfried Russwurm, Member of the Board of Directors of Siemens AG.
“There were many misunderstandings in the general discussion. But as we were at the material level, we could conduct a manual discussion“, says Prof. Siegfried Russwurm, Member of the Board of Directors of Siemens AG. (Photo: Siemens)

The Industry 4.0 platform or the Industrial Internet Consortium? RAMI or IIRA? Observe the standards meticulously or just do it? In the matter of procedures to be followed for manufacturing in the future and the Internet of Things, the differences between Germany and the USA may not be unbridgeable, but they are definitely conspicuous.

Even the genesis is totally different: While in Germany, a consulting body of the Federal government - The Economy-Science Research Union requested the associations to setup the Industry 4.0 platform, big companies in the USA triggered the start: In March 2014 AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, IBM and Intel founded the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) in order to coordinate the priorities for the industrial Internet, and to enable the technical applications required for this. Meanwhile 250 companies have joined the movement, including some from Germany. The aim of the Industrial Internet Consortium as described by Dr. Richard Mark Soley, Executive Director of IIC, is to bring together “operational systems”, which mean machines and industrial plants in the widest sense of the term, and information technology, as stated in the Machine Market sibling magazine Elektrotechnik.

Industrial Internet Consortium will not primarily create standards

What is important is not just the technical level, but most of all the new Internet outlook of tapping new business models. Thus for example, the manufacturers of aeroplane engines are on the verge of becoming service providers who do not predominantly sell aeroplane engines, but offer propulsion as a service.

Although frequently missing standards is mentioned as the most important obstacle to the outbreak of the Internet of Things, Soley sees the main task of the IIC not primarily in defining new standards. “If it is a question of standards, then one generally means middleware standards”, says the IIC man, “and it is often said: we have enough of that already.” More important than middleware standards in which data transport generally stays in the foreground, is the semantics, i.e., understanding what information is hidden in the bits and bytes. For this the IIC has opted for the test bed approach in which IIC member countries collaborate to solve problems in a certain application area.

If successful, IIC applications should be able to become international standards

In the first test bed on the subject ‚Track and Trace‘, Bosch, Tech Mahindra and Cisco came together to solve problems of connecting tools and work steps in aeroplane maintenance. Here one does not follow the approach of defining a standard first, instead the idea is to find out which standards are missing and then to define them through practical collaboration between the domains.

Soley emphasised that industrial applications are being developed at IIC which, if successful, can be brought into the international standardisation bodies. Moreover, IIC is not competing with the German Industry 4.0 platform: One is constantly in touch. The reference architecture presented by IIC for the industrial internet does not differ essentially from the ideas of German Industry 4.0.

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